Earth Day Brings Big Social Impact News To Northwestern Kellogg

Kellogg Board Fellows is a 20-month program that connects 100 top Kellogg students to Chicago-area nonprofits for an opportunity to work in board service. After a $3.5M gift from Golub Capital announced today (April 22), the program will be known as the Golub Capital Board Fellows Program.

Imagine a series of think tanks at the leading business schools in the United States, all collaborating to advance greater social impact research and programming — a network of labs weaved into the fabric of graduate business education, working at the forefront for the greater good. That vision is one step closer to reality today (April 22) after Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management announced a major gift to establish a social impact lab that is a twin to one launched two years ago at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Golub Capital, a direct lender and credit asset manager that employs hundreds in Chicago not far from Kellogg’s campus, will give $3.5 million to the Kellogg School to sponsor its long-running Board Fellows Program for five years and create a second Golub Capital Social Impact Lab. The lab will facilitate advanced social impact research and share the program’s learnings and expertise with a broader network of leading business schools, says David Golub, president of Golub Capital, which created the first Golub Lab at Stanford in 2019. Kellogg’s lab will launch in September 2021.

“Golub Capital is building a network of social impact labs at leading U.S. business schools,” he says. “Our goal is to harness the power of these leading academic institutions to enhance the effectiveness of nonprofits. Kellogg’s best-in-class program to teach MBAs and alumni how to be excellent nonprofit board members made for an ideal fit for our impact philanthropy effort.”


Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli

Kellogg School of Management Dean Francesca Cornelli: $3.5M gift will “help us understand better how board members of nonprofits can provide even more value to these organizations and those served by them.”

It’s appropriate that Kellogg made its announcement on Earth Day, because the new lab is a high-profile extension of Golub Capital’s impact philanthropy program. The firm, a credit asset manager with more than $35 billion capital under management that employs more than 320 in Chicago, is a pioneer in advanced research and quantitative practices, as well as a long-time supporter of several hospitals and worthy causes in the nonprofit sector. Golub Capital Social Impact Labs “engage the next generation of business leaders and leading academics in the field to accelerate progress across the nonprofit ecosystem,” according to Kellogg’s announcement.

For an idea of what will be carried out at the new Kellogg lab, Stanford’s lab describes their work as collaboration “with a wide range of organizations, from large firms to smaller startups, for-profits to nonprofits, and NGOs to governments, to conduct research. Then, we apply and disseminate our insights to achieve social impact at large scale.” Stanford’s Golub Lab uses data science research to develop, apply and promote innovative technology solutions like AI and machine learning to achieve positive social impact at a large scale in such areas as charitable giving, education, financial health, government services, health, and worker training, using such methods as AI and machine learning, adaptive and iterative experimentation, incentive design, and social sciences. Current work includes accelerating health technology innovation to address Covid-19; boosting efficacy, efficiency, and accountability in government training programs; and learning how to incentivize giving. The Stanford Lab is led by Professor Susan Athey, who recently received the 2019 Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications from the CME Group and Mathematical Science Research Institute.

Kellogg’s Golub Capital Social Impact Lab will recruit eight Golub Capital postdoctoral fellows to Kellogg over five years, creating a “think tank” that works with the MBA students in the Board Fellows Program, the 20-month curriculum that prepares 100 top Kellogg MBA students annually for board service at Chicago-area nonprofits through a combination of academic coursework, board placement, and strategic consulting; it will be renamed the Golub Capital Board Fellows Program. Fellows will also collaborate with faculty members across Kellogg departments on a range of social impact-related research and help export the program to other business schools.

“The Board Fellows program is one of the primary reasons I came to Kellogg. To me, this program demonstrates Kellogg’s commitment to developing civically-minded leaders who are equipped to drive positive change in their communities,” says Dani Lubin-Levy, a current Kellogg MBA student and president of the Board Fellows’ student leadership team. “This gift will accelerate the impact the Board Fellows program is having on the organizations we serve.“


The $3.5 million gift will count toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. With the creation of the Golub Capital Social Impact Lab, Kellogg students will have access to more advanced research and quantitative practices, the school says in its announcement, “enabling them to take on even more rigorous projects and deliver greater impact for nonprofit partners.”

Both Golub labs will pursue advanced research projects, complementing and supporting each other, with the Kellogg Lab focused on developing and training MBAs to become more effective nonprofit board members via the Golub Capital Board Fellows Program. “The Kellogg Lab will also publish and disseminate a white paper with step-by-step guidance on how other leading business schools can create their own version of the Board Fellows Program, detailing best practices in professional board governance instruction,” the school says.

Among the likely Kellogg Lab projects:

  • Research and analysis of various approaches to nonprofits’ earned and innovative revenue streams.
  • Review and assessment of organizational expenses and projections.
  • Engagement and accountability approaches for boards of directors.
  • Development of contingency and succession planning.
  • Designing and implementing an approach to launching a new young professionals’ board.


Since 2003, the Kellogg Board Fellows program has prepared 744 Board Fellows for civic leadership and served 223 unique Chicago-area nonprofits.

“For nearly 20 years, Kellogg students have meaningfully contributed to the missions of Chicago-area nonprofits through our Board Fellows program,” Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli said in the school’s announcement. “Golub Capital’s generous gift will help us understand better how board members of nonprofits can provide even more value to these organizations and those served by them.”

Angela Lee, Mechthild Esser Nemmers professor of marketing, will serve as faculty champion for the Golub Capital Social Impact Lab at Kellogg, working with the postdoctoral fellows to guide their research, facilitate faculty connections, and intellectual exchange via workshops and conferences. “This gift gives us a terrific opportunity to further enhance our existing program model by bridging research and practice,” Lee says. “Not only will this allow us to build an even more effective program for MBA students, it will also promote and support new social impact research.”

Adds David Ernesto Munar, president and CEO of Howard Brown Health, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer organization based in Chicago: “Howard Brown Health has benefited for four years from the contributions of the exceptional MBA talent provided by the Kellogg Board Fellows program. We are excited about how this new investment in the Board Fellows program can further enhance Howard Brown Health’s work providing health and wellness support to the LGBTQ community.”


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